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Clown in Congress: Brazil's Tiririca says he won't run again


RIO DE JANEIRO — A clown elected twice to Brazil's Congress under the slogan "It can't get any worse" apparently feels that it did. He says he is too embarrassed by his fellow lawmakers to run again.

Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, universally known as Tiririca, said Wednesday that he is ashamed of his colleagues — more than half of whom are reportedly under investigation for corruption — and won't run again in 2018. As a member of the Chamber of Deputies, Tiririca had continued working in a circus on weekends and he said he was returning to clowning full-time.

"I am embarrassed," the clown, whose name means Grumpy, said in an eight-minute rant to a nearly empty session — his first address to Brazil's lower house in his seven years in office. "I walk with my head up high because I did nothing wrong, but many of you do not have the guts to do that. You even put disguises to go out. Being a congressman is a shame."

While Tiririca's campaign may have gotten laughs, it was far from a joke. He won office in 2010 with more than 1.3 million votes, outpolling every other candidate in Brazil's largest state, Sao Paulo, in an election stunner that garnered world attention. He won re-election by a landslide in 2014.

Tiririca used his first — and probably last — speech to Congress to blast the sloth and corruption of many of the 513 lawmakers.

"We are well paid to work, but only eight of 513 actually show up here often. I am one of those eight and I am a clown," Tiririca said.

One congressman, Celso Jacob, is serving a sentence for wrongdoing when he was mayor of the city of Tres Rios and has to sleep in prison. He still gets to vote in Congress. Local media report that more than half of the lawmakers are under investigation, some linked to the big "Car Wash" bribery scandal that has tainted much Brazil's political and economic elite.

Adding to public frustration, the lower house has voted through a series of austerity measures this year while many of its members are linked to corruption and bribes. Legislators have also shielded Brazil's unpopular president, Michel Temer, from prosecution in two corruption and obstruction of justice cases.

A Datafolha institute poll published Wednesday said 60 per cent of Brazilians believe Congress has performed badly or horribly, the highest number ever registered by the pollster. The margin of error was two percentage points. The institute interviewed 2,016 people Nov. 29-30.

All the seats in Brazil's lower house will be up for grabs in the election next October.

Tiririca's conservative party is in Temer's coalition, but he has voted more often with the opposition.

He said another reason to leave Congress is that "congressmen work a lot, but don't deliver much."

Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press

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